These two miracles or “signs” appear totally unconnected
The Feeding of the 5,000 is a story of the abundance of God’s love
Jesus becomes the good shepherd who makes his people sit down in green pastures when he makes the people sit down on the grass (Jn 6:10). The theme of abundant gift therefore resonates with the overflowing cup of Psalm 23.
The abundance is demonstrated when the gift is shared.
It is enough for all
For all the gentile world and for the 12 tribes of Israel (the 12 baskets left over) – reversing the normal order of priorities
But how much would each person receive?
If we take 5 small loaves and divide between 5,000 that is 1,000 people to share a loaf
If we take a piece of pitta bread as a respresentation of the small flat barley loaves of the Middle East and divide it …
Divide once and it becomes 1/2
Twice becomes 1/4
3x becomes 1/8
5 x becomes 1/32
6x becomes 1/64
7 x becomes 1/128
8x becomes 1/256
9x becomes 1/512
10x becomes 1/1024
How can this satisfy? A miracle!
And then again if we flatten out this morsel very thin then we see that it is about the size of a communion wafer
A gift which can satisfy all hungers
Later in the same chapter we hear:
“Then Jesus declared, ‘I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” (John 6:35)
It is a gift which never fails and demands to be shared.
So what then of the miracle which follow the story of the feeding.
John reflects what perhaps we are all thinking.: Just when we are happiest is when things often go wrong – life throws up trouble as quickly as storms appear on the sea. So the disciples move from celebrating a miraculous day to being in mortal peril.
But the Christ who met us in bread meets us in the heart of our pain and fear.
“Do not be afraid, It is I”. The English “It is I” could also be rendered “I AM” – the same I AM as the I AM sayings in John, (like, “I am the bread of life”) the same I AM as Yahweh, the name of the God of Israel.
But while the God of Israel was a God to be feared – for whom “the fear of the Lord was the beginning of Wisdom” (Prov 9:10) the God which is made known through Christ is a source of comfort not fear.
(Christ calms the disciples and stills the storm in a way which mirrors Psalm 107.)
We take the Christ who meets us in the Eucharist out into our lives to meet us in every situation and every fear.
The two miracles then can be seen to reflect the immanence of God in the abundant blessings of our lives but also the transcendence of Christ who is able to be with us in our every fear whenever and wherever it may arise. This is the Christ who meets us in our needs and who will be with us always, to the very end of the age (Mt 28:20).
From a sermon given by Chris Hancock at St Andrew’s Box Hill, 27th July, 2015